New bill would free up more NOPD officers to focus on crime - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

New bill would free up more NOPD officers to focus on crime

A NOLA Patrol member walks the French Quarter. Under a new bill written by Rep Helena Moreno, these trained civilians would be allowed to control traffic during major events, freeing up NOPD officers to focus on crime. (Fox 8 photo) A NOLA Patrol member walks the French Quarter. Under a new bill written by Rep Helena Moreno, these trained civilians would be allowed to control traffic during major events, freeing up NOPD officers to focus on crime. (Fox 8 photo)
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

A new bill getting goo millage in the state legislature would free up more New Orleans Police Officers to focus on crime instead of traffic control.

Saints games, The Bayou Classic, Essence Fest and other special events put thousands of vehicles on downtown streets often creating traffic congestion. Right now, NOPD officers are directing traffic during those events at a time NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison says they're already spread thing.

"Right now we're deploying commissioned police officers to direct traffic during those events,” Harrison said. " (When officers could be) dealing with violent crime, property crime, making sure tourists and visitors and people who live here are actually safe during those special events."

House Bill 418, authored by Rep. Helena Moreno (D- New Orleans), would allow civilians to direct traffic in downtown areas.

"We've got a manpower issue with the New Orleans Police Department,” Moreno said. "(HB 418) would allow for some of the civilians that are part of the NOLA Patrol to be able to do some traffic control and direct traffic, but we need legislative approval to do so because only commissioned law enforcement officers can do traffic control."

NOLA Patrol consists of about two dozen civilians hired by the city to handle quality of life issues as well as traffic control, but existing state law has been a road block in terms of those traffic duties.

On March 24, a state house committee approved Moreno’s bill.  It now heads to the full state house and is expected to be amended so that it would have citywide application.

"Which would give us the authority to hire and train civilian personnel to direct traffic anywhere in the city should the need arise,” Harrison said.

However, traffic tickets could not be issued by the civilian traffic control officers.

"They will not have arrest authority, but they will have the training and the authority to direct traffic under the control and supervision of New Orleans Police,” Harrison said.

And if NOLA Patrol officers end up needing the assistance, they'll be able to contact NOPD officers immediately.

"This is just another step in the process to be more efficient, to be able to put someone else out there to do something that cops are doing now," Harrison said.

Chief Harrison said the department will begin working on training procedures now in anticipation of the bill winning final legislative approval.

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